Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Official: LeBron has Lost His Mind

I'm a 35 (soon to be 36) year old middle class suburb-dwelling white male. I was raised in the suburbs, went to school in the suburbs, and went to college. I cannot speak of racism from a personal standpoint, nor do I have the right. I am, however, a fairly intelligent, reasonable, and logical person. Therefore, I can confidently dispute Lebron James' and Maverick Carter's latest Decision - to play the race card in response to the bitter and angry reaction to LRMR's infamous spectacle, "The Decision".

I'm not naive in thinking that racism doesn't exist, even in the reality of mega-superstardom. That there aren't some who can't stand Lebron because of the color of his skin. That he, his mother, and friends didn't face it growing up in Akron. Those people were racists before "The Decision" and they will be racists long after the sting of "The Decision" simmers. But to say race played a significant role in people's REACTION to "The Decision"? Really?

Was race a factor when Lebron was arguably the most beloved athlete on the planet? Was race a factor when millions bought his jersey. Was race a factor when arenas sold out just see him? Or when he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teen? Or when Dan Gilbert gave him and his entourage free reign and jobs within the organization? Or in the summer of 2010 when 6 organizations came to HIS hometown to beg him to play for their organization? See, you can't have it both ways. People didn't just wake up the day after "The Decision" and become racist.

The most unfortunate part of the latest Lebron blunder is that people who carelessly throw around the race card (or any other serious social/economical/political issue) like he and Maverick did, wind up making a mockery of the cause.

Lebron - the poor black kid, raised alone by his mom on the streets of Akron... who has also been coddled and fawned over since he was 14. Who's had more privileges bestowed upon him by the time he's 25 than most people will ever have in their lifetime.

The transformation from hero to villain is remarkable. Lebron is like the sheltered, quiet kid who goes to college and finally let's loose. He's the kid that was never allowed to have sweets and is now old enough to binge at will. He's the rebellious teen. No more mister nice guy.

In the most shocking heel turn since Hulk Hogan at Bash at the Beach, Lebron not only seems to be playing the heel role, he's the main eventer. Little did he know, when he decided to play for the Heat, he'd be the world champion at generating it.

Race didn't have much to do with the REACTION to "The Decision". Being a coy, disrespectful, self-indulgent, ego-maniac who cut the nuts off of his hometown? Now that may have played a role just a little. Playing the race card is as empty as "The Decision" itself.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Movie Review: "The Town"

Charlestown is a blue-collar neighborhood in Boston that, at least through the lens of Ben Affleck’s slickly made crime thriller “The Town,” is rife with generations-long criminal activity – a malignant livelihood passed down from father to son.

Captaining complicated carjackings, bank heists and armed robberies is the legacy handed to Doug MacRay (Affleck), the brains behind a four-man team of white trash crooks with a penchant for getting away clean after each successive theft.

Streetwise Doug knows the gang’s luck can’t last forever, and after he and his boys take a pretty bank manager hostage following a particularly daring bank job, that already taut time frame tightens considerably.

It’s an interesting set-up, and Affleck, who co-wrote the screenplay and also directs, has an eye for the ugliness of the streets as well as the desperate and damaged people that populate them.

Where Affleck’s not so adept is forming a firm and coherent narrative to go along with those moody shots of Charlestown’s back alleys, bars and businesses. During its overlong two-hour run time, “The Town” doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a love story, a character-driven drama, or a balls-out heist-and-chase flick.

Instead, all of these elements are incongruously mixed into a clichéd stew that borrows from “Point Break” and more obviously from Michael Mann’s far superior “Heat,” with requisite “Fahk you, ya queeya” South Boston accents generously nicked from “The Departed” and the Affleck-scripted “Good Will Hunting.”

Despite a couple of compelling performances, most notably Jeremy Renner as Doug’s sociopathic best friend, “The Town” goes down too many well-trod paths to stand out as anything more than another Southie-inflected, wanna-be-“smaht” crime caper.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vox Lox (week 3)

If you're big on first impressions, well then you're no longer reading this column. Dropping three of four bets last week and falling 6 dimes down this early was a harsh and humbling reality. But this isn't the first time I've been in the hole. What, you think this is the first fucking hole I've ever dug? Please, I was born with a fucking shovel. I know how to get in trouble, and then climb the fuck out. You ever stare at your checking account balance when it's smaller than your mortgage payment due in a few days and you still owe half of what's left to your bookie? That's when you have to pick some winners. Normally, in these situations, my confidence is a bit shaken after getting drilled and I crawl into a conservative shell. One or two small, safe bets. Scratchin' to stay alive, as Steven Tyler once bemoaned. But, to my surprise, I like another four games today:

Lions (+11) over Minnesota, 3 dimes
49ers (-2.5) over Tampa Bay, 2 dimes
Bengals (-3) over Carolina, 2 dimes
Cowboys (+3) over Houston, 1 dime

Last week: 1-3 (-4 dimes)
Season: 1-4-1 (-6 dimes)


Who is the Vox?

SamVox is not a professional handicapper, but a premier one. He has been gambling his entire adult life and has experienced every sickening turn and nasty twist of fate that occurs during a football season. What distinguishes the Vox is his amazing intuition, astoundingly long memory, attention to detail and preparation, aversion to propaganda and access to the industry's sharpest bettors. He is a two time Pick'Em champion and went 49-33-5 against the spread with his Vox Pix over two seasons. His critically-dismissed Vox in the Box column also appears here at Cleveland Sports Torture

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Who's to blame for the 0-2 start? - Podcast

Here's a new podcast from with where they discuss:

Who's to blame for the Browns' 0-2 start? And what are realistic expectations for the Cavaliers?

Follow the link below to download or listen.
Sent from my BlackBerry®

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The thinkable has happened

The NFL is eager to increase its schedule from 16 to 18 games. Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft has called the prospect “a win-win all around.” Kraft must not watch the Browns, an organization where the idea of “win-win” goes to die an agonizing demise each and every football season.

Around the league, many players are against making an already grueling season even longer. I’m with the union on this, because it’s two games into the Browns’ 2010 campaign, and I’m already tired of this team.

If anything, the season should be shortened by a few weeks. An eight game format would really ratchet up the tension, I think. Or, instead of even playing a game, players and coaches could vote on some other form of competition to decide that week’s contest: Cornhole, a round-robin style ping pong tournament, or a vigorous debate on a newsworthy topic would have the dual effect of replacing the on-field action with something more interesting while saving Cleveland fans from wasting their autumn Sundays. A true “win-win.”

At this point in the column, I could use a well-worn idiom to describe my current feelings toward the Browns. I could say “I’m at my wits’ end” or use some other stock phrase. To say such would be disingenuous, however, as this sorry franchise has long since taxed my mental resources and nothing the Browns do (or don’t do, more likely) on the field surprises me anymore.

My feelings have evolved into a kind of religious awe of a team that consistently contrives of ways to lose winnable games. Looking larger scale, these last two weeks stand as Exhibit A and B of the “culture of losing” that has latched virus-like to the Browns and seemingly won’t let go. Despite the changes at the top, we’re still watching a boring, mistake-plagued, talent-deprived mess 16 weeks a year.

No intelligent football fan should expect the playoffs in ‘10, but some modicum of mediocrity is not too much to ask. While the NFL schedule makes fools out of many would-be prognosticators, going at least 1-1 against Tampa and KC would have been at least some sign of incremental progress for this franchise.

At 0-2, just like that, the Browns are straddling the icy precipice of another chilling and lonely season on the lakefront. The sickening plunge into lightless oblivion may start next week at Baltimore, and as evidenced by the inconsistent and uninspired ball of the last two weeks, Cleveland is likely looking down the cold caldera of an at-best five win year.

Two short weeks, and the season seems to be over already. The saddest part is how comfortable the feeling has gotten.


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Vox Lox (week 2: Corruption in Cuyahoga County)

Burn on, big river, burn on.

Wasn't I just talking about the Brownies bottoming-out before the loss to Tampa? We never learn, here at CST. We just try and make sense of it. One minute, I'm putting my wager in the win column, mentally counting my money, inhaling mini-hot dogs, drunk off optimism and a potential 2-0 start for our beloved Browns, telling my fellow road-tailgaters how Delhomme is a "pro".... the next minute, an INT changes everything. To paraphrase a small-time hustler I once encountered on High Street: (Jake) Next time you fuck us, use Vasoline!
(I feel a Vox rant coming, kids:)

By mid-week, of course, the whole city was drowning in shame and scandal. You may have been happy to see two county crooks go down so publicly, but we all share the scars. Jimmy Dimora's arrest made national headlines. While it's easy to dismiss him as Cleveland's real-life Tony Soprano, the office Dimora held is a reflection on our town, our government, our beliefs and the Democratic party. When he (allegedly) abused it, he abused us all. Every colleague, every contractor, every fucking voter...making us a bigger punch-line than we were prior to that dog-and-pony show at his house early wednesday morning. Funny, the media was there waiting for it. Need some publicity, FBI? The Wire may have ended two years ago, but the symbiotic relationship between journalists, politicians, white collar crooks, and law enforcement plays out almost daily in these parts.

Our local paper was invoking the ghost of Boss Tweed and comparing the corruption in Cuyahoga County to one of the most infamous scandals in the history of American big-city politics, but make no mistake, readers- The Plain Dealer let us down, too. While Dimora and Frank Russo got figuratively fat off our struggling county, The Plain Dealer endorsed them virtually the entire way. While the FBI built a case against the men atop our government, the PD's singular focus was bringing down Sheriff McFaul. And for what? Deputies selling clambake tickets at the Justice Center? McFaul giving his son an unpaid position? You are kidding me, right? Russo was robbing us blind, indulging in every excess; where was the goddamn PD? Witch-hunting Gerry McFaul for cutting off do-not-remove labels on mattresses!

Many wonder why I've always had the Sheriff's back. He's no saint, but he shoots straight (Tim Hagan, too). And old habits die hard. At fourteen years old, when the Sheriff faced a bullshit sexual harassment trial, I was shooting holes through the public's prosecution on 3WE's "The Pam & Joanne Show." Had some help with that one, but I digress. My point is that two crooked politicians do not mean the entire system is broken. Yes, I voted against issue 6 two years ago. A little reform is always needed, but not a new charter. You can dress it up anyway you'd like, but the political machine is the political machine. And whether it's a soon-to-be -former-fat-commissioner with an Italian last name or a brand new, more powerful Cuyahoga County Executive with an Irish last name, greed is greed. And we're all human, which brings me to my own testimonial:

Sixteen summers ago, I did an "internship" at one of Cuyahoga County's most paramount offices. I'll change the names to protect the innocent (and the guilty). I was nineteen and naive, and not interested in anything other than getting through the work day so I could get home and party with friends. It was a "political job," I was told. I wasn't real sure what that meant, but I learned quickly. Basically, yours truly and about ten other college kids whose fathers were bigwigs in Cuyahoga County spent six weeks doing absolutely nothing in the basement of a prominent downtown building. Being a lazy fuck, I was thrilled with this summer job. It beat the hell out of bagging groceries or telemarketing.

Still, I knew I was a reflection on the person who pulled strings to get me in. I had some pride. I had no intention of going "above and beyond," but I was going to earn my paycheck. The first week, I worked diligently despite the culture of lethargy at the County. And it wasn't just my fellow interns slacking, it was everyone. Supervisors, cubicle workers, etc (Even The Boss, who motioned towards the smoking-hot female interns he had hired and asked, "Fellas, did I do OK?"). So, I met my father for lunch at the B&A inside the Standard Building while the other kids went boozing. I asked longtime employees for extra work while the other interns flirted uselessly in the basement. Like Bob Seger, I stood arrow-straight unencumbered by the weight of all these hustlers and their schemes. OK, that's a bit dramatic but you get my point. And then, suddenly, it all went wrong.

I became friendly with another intern named "John." Tall, good-looking, Italian kid who went to a university on the west coast and seemed to know things. John quickly sniffed out my need for action, as I poured over the box scores in the PD every morning. During week 2, John had introduced me to "Lenny." Lenny wasn't an intern. He worked upstairs and dealt with the public, doing semi-important stuff. Lenny was waspy, short and unshaven. Had a creepy smile and hair like Dennis Miller. By week 3, I was lunching with John and Lenny. The seeds of my soul's corruption were about to be sewn, right there on Lakeside (or Ontario). After just a month and a half working for Cuyahoga County, I would never be the same.

"It's a three-team parlay," said Lenny. "It pays to 6 to 1." As I understood it, I just needed to pick three winners from one night's slate of MLB games and I could turn $50 into $300. I was intrigued, but I backed off. Didn't trust Lenny, even though John vouched for him. That Saturday, I met up with Lenny at the racetrack. I was no stranger to betting horses, but Lenny was a real handicapper, and happy to share his selections for every race. I won a few hundred and then innocently placed a baseball bet with Lenny for that weekend. I lost. Came back monday morning for week 4 and bet again. Lost again. By thursday of that week, Lenny was letting me play on credit. I was chasing my money, at this point. That night, I took the Tribe, ChiSox and Reds in a three team parlay. If I hit, I'd be even with Lenny. The Indians and White Sox won easily. Cincinnati was playing on the west coast and up 2-0 in the 9th when I fell asleep, content that I'd won my wager. In the shower the next morning, I was only half-listening to the scores when I heard 'Padres 3, Reds 2.' A chill ran up my spine. I officially owed Lenny a lot of money. It was friday, and that meant payday. And I kid you not, I had to sign my entire fucking paycheck over to Lenny.

Wish I could say I went straight after that. But I was still gambling come week 5. Barely working, and hanging at the Ratskeller during lunch hour. John and his other boys would make out with some of the girls in our office and come back drunk. I never went that far, but I had gone out of control in my own way. And to this day, I'm still chasing that money I owe Lenny. Haven't seen him since 1994, but I'm still fucking chasing it. Even when I win, it's never enough. And the highs don't satisfy like the lows sting. But spare me martyrdom after Week One of the 2010 NFL football season. I have 20 more weeks to clean out your Bookie.

So get out on the streets, girls, and bust your butts.
I am Jewel in the box.


Week 2 Picks:
A 4-pack of home favorites this afternoon-
Panthers (-3) over Tampa, 2 dimes
Cowboys (-7.5) over Chicago, 2 dimes
Titans (-5.5) over Pittspuke, 1 dimes
Packers (-13.5) over Buffalo, 1 dime
Last week: 0-1-1 (-2 dimes)

(Knew my SanFran choice last week was in trouble when Brandon Lang released it as his 40-dime play of the day. We'll fade that fraud for life.)


Who is the Vox?
SamVox is not a professional handicapper, but a premier one. He has been gambling his entire adult life and has experienced every sickening turn and nasty twist of fate that occurs during a football season. What distinguishes the Vox is his amazing intuition, astoundingly long memory, attention to detail and preparation, aversion to propaganda and access to the industry's sharpest bettors. He is a two time Pick'Em champion and went 49-33-5 against the spread with his Vox Pix over two seasons. His critically-dismissed Vox in the Box column also appears here at Cleveland Sports Torture

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Haiku of the Day

The U in the Shoe /
Brownies down in Tampa Bay /
Florida ownage.

Vox Lox (week 1)

Hello hello. The Vox magically and methodically escapes that Box of his and now fulfills his promise seventeen months ago to return to the promised land.
In 2007, I released many of my picks on NEON's The Daily Dose but the show was unfortunately cancelled. In 2008, Vox Pix was born and I busted out another winning season. After taking off 2009 for personal reasons, the Vox returns in 2010 for another twenty one weeks of give'em hell handicapping. Now, this column will once again validate the Vox as northeast Ohio's premier handicapper and, best of all, my selections are completely complimentary! All we ask is that you read Vox religiously, bet responsibly, and realize that I cannot and will not win every game. Anybody in this business that claims they can is a fraud. What I will do is build your bankroll through disciplined decisions. While you are up nights worrying about whether to start Nate Burleson or Donald Driver for your fantasy team, I will be doing the necessary legwork to expose each week's oddsmaker error(s).
Week One is always a dangerous proposition. Still, the lines simply aren't as sharp in the first month of the season as they will be by week 6, when Vegas has a vise grip on the habits and trends of all 32 NFL squads. Today, I'll roll with two dimes each on two roadies:
Browns (+3) over Tampa (BITCHES!)
(Adapting voice of The Most Interesting Man in the World) I don't often bet the Browns, but, when I do....I like action on their games early in the year. After following the daily growth of every blade of grass in Berea throughout training camp (thanks, Mary Cay Cabot and Tony Grossi), I am in a better position to handicap their week one match-up than the national pros. Following their fluke record in 2007, the bloated Browns were only 5.5-point underdogs against Dallas in the season opener. And although I will never bet money against the Browns, I pounced on this oddsmaker error and released it as my Pick of the Week. The Cowboys covered easily. It's just the opposite this year, and Cleveland is undervalued. This game should be a PICK game, so I'll happily take the three points and take my first bite out of the Crookie.
49ers (-3) over Seattle
The media loves giving hand jobs to Mike Singletary, and that's going to continue this afternoon in the press conference after San Fran's blowout win. Yet again, I predict Seattle will catch some bad karma this season-- retribution, no doubt, for that commercial in 2007 featuring Matt Hasselbeck's slap-the-face dance move. And his annoying social conservative sister-in-law.
Last week: N/A
2009 Season: N/A
2008 Season: 29-21-3
2007 Season: 20-12-2
Who is the Vox?
SamVox is not a professional handicapper, but a premier one. He has been gambling his entire adult life and has experienced every sickening turn and nasty twist of fate that occurs during a football season. What distinguishes the Vox is his amazing intuition, astoundingly long memory, attention to detail and preparation, aversion to propaganda and access to the industry's sharpest bettors. He is a two time Pick'Em champion and went 49-33-5 against the spread with his Vox Pix over two seasons. His critically-dismissed Vox in the Box column also appears here at Cleveland Sports Torture.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

The night of magical thinking

When asked, if given a choice, would I rather have Ohio State or a Cleveland team win a championship, the answer for me is always simple: Cleveland all the way, baby. “This town is my town” and all that.

An unhealthy, usually one-sided relationship with the Browns, Indians and Cavs will always take precedence in my personal athletic pantheon, it’s true, but Ohio State football is still a strong fourth on my list of favorite teams. And in 2002, the Buckeyes provided several generations of Cleveland fans (at least those who rooted for Ohio State) that long sought after, but never realized elation that comes with ultimate victory.

As we inch toward Saturday’s 3:30 early-season litmus test between OSU and Miami in Columbus, the 2003 Fiesta Bowl national title game has been getting a predictable rehash in media circles. The 31-24 Ohio State double-overtime win over the ‘Canes is probably the single greatest athletic contest I have ever witnessed – an emotionally dizzying, highest- of high-stakes affair heightened further by a month’s worth of media-driven smack talk against the 11-point underdog Buckeyes, all funneled into four-plus quarters packed with so many over-the-top dramatic moments that even the hackiest Hollywood screenwriter would have looked at the byplay and said, “Nah, this is too much.”

But we can’t bask in the glory of that memorable Friday night without remembering what came before. That “instant classic” title game was a microcosm of an undefeated season that never felt safe, precariously balanced as it was on a game to game knife-edge of “pulled-from-the-fire” moments, any one of which could have gone the wrong way and deflated our ambitions of seeing the publically stoic, buttoned-down Jim Tressel make this goofy face.

The ’02 Buckeyes were the collegiate Kardiac Kids, playing six games decided by a touchdown or less. With the advent of “Tressel ball,” where special teams and defense masked a purposefully vanilla offense, the Buckeyes couldn’t help but get involved in the bi-weekly nail biter. And man oh man, there were some twitchy moments: Will Allen’s interceptions during potential game-winning drives by Cincinnati and Michigan; Tim Anderson batting down a pass at the line in an excruciatingly intense OT affair against Illinois; and the "Holy Buckeye" Krenzel to Jenkins play on 4th-and-1 against Purdue, my personal favorite and probably “the play” of 2002.

As a Cleveland fan, I was not used to this surreal repeal of Murphy’s Law. Here was a team my friends and I rooted for that actually got all the bounces. It got to the point where I didn’t believe the Buckeyes could lose, even against the heavily favored Hurricanes, #1 in the country that year and in search of their second consecutive national crown.

In my expert armchair analysis, aided by the fact that I was a graduate of Ohio State and therefore not at all biased, I determined that the Buckeyes could use their usual formula of simple offense and stout, playmaking defense to control the game. I smartly concluded that if the score was close at halftime, then the scarlet and gray would have a chance.

How the hell I’m not getting paid for this kind of keen insight, I have no idea.

Anyway, game night was spent at the home of CST contributor and fellow OSU grad, Kevin. The atmosphere was amped and electric, a feeling no doubt mirrored in many homes and watering holes across the state as it became increasingly evident that the experts were wrong and Ohio State was going to make it a game.

People act out in strange ways during moments of extreme stress, and OSU-Miami at Kevin’s followed this sociological pattern: Returning CST columnist/handicapper Sam, for example, nonsensically and fruitlessly screamed profanities at the television because he didn’t like the network’s camera angle on a field goal attempt. And when Krenzel completed a game-saving 4th-and-14 pass to Jenkins, a friend sitting next to me was so overcome with emotion (or something) that he grabbed me and kissed me on the side of the neck. While a Maxim-reading, cage-fighting, whiskey-guzzling badass like myself would normally be a bit affronted by such an intimate guy-on-guy act (not that there’s anything wrong with it), I was just as happy as he was and didn’t care about the unbidden smooch.

Indeed, the game was so full of outlandish and outright unbelievable plays, Buckeyes fans had scarce time to breath. It was like the gridiron version of “Can You Top This:” Maurice Clarett stripping the ball from Sean Taylor after an interception begat Wills McGahee getting his knee turned inside out begat the still-controversial pass interference call on Miami DB Glenn Sharpe where fireworks exploded and an Ice Age passed before the ref threw the flag (or so it seemed). Moments on top of moments on top of moments – one following the next in dreamlike succession.

Finally, on a play I’ve probably watched two dozen times over the years, a Cie Grant blitz forced Ken Dorsey’s 4th-down-and-goal pass into the turf, ending this endless game and sending fans into a euphoric whirlwind of adrenaline-fueled joy. I scarcely remember anything from those first explosive seconds after the final play. It was like a mini-nuke going off and flash-blinding everything but a feeling of ecstatic, man-hugging bliss.

Whatever, it was awesome and glorious, and I want it to happen again. For now, I’m happy to have witnessed at least one sports season end not in misery or apathy but the complete opposite of those depressing states of mind. Maybe tomorrow afternoon will be the first mile on a new road to glory for Northeast Ohio and Buckeyes fans everywhere. If you feel the same, dear reader, then join me in the battle cry:

Beat the U! Just like ’02!

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Vox in the Box (22)

Editor's Note: About a decade ago, I had an email exchange with The Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes. He poked fun at Dwight Gooden after Gary Sheffield suggested the Indians make Doc their closer. I took issue with the beat writer's barb; after all, didn't Hoynsie know that Doc was the Tribe's best regular season starter in 1998? Hoynsie, one of the most talented writers at Ohio's largest (and very mediocre) daily, said he respected Doc for never ducking the media and always getting up for big games, but attributed Gooden's troubles to a fear of throwing strikes. He nibbled and nibbled, said Paul. Eventually you just gotta throw strikes and trust your stuff. Although I only half agreed with that assessment, it stuck with me. SamVox has recently been a writer in hiding, lacking drive and confidence. But, today. he is staring back at you- cracks in his face, weak arm and all-- finally ready to bring the fucking heat.

Please allow me to re- introduce myself, I'm a blog of wealth and takes...... Since I've been gone the last 15 months, I've traded in cigarettes and strippers for the English Premier League and running, but I still believe in destroying myself for the sake of my craft (I loathe running, but it's the ideal activity for the man at war with his own soul). I believe Fantasy Football, Facebook, and Texas Hold'Em have strongly contributed to the massive disintegration of our culture, and yet I willingly participate in all three. I've watched more cable-access TV than any human in history, despite knowing there are programs on other channels I'd probably enjoy more. I prefer to pay for the newspaper than read it for free online (better yet, I'd rather just steal the neighbor's paper, then give it back when I'm done to alleviate the guilt). I believe the best place to be lyrically is at the heart of a contradiction. I don't believe in abortion, but I'm hard-core Pro Choice. I daydream about sniping bin Laden, but I'm vehemently opposed to the death penalty. I believe if you haven't figured out yet that Born in the USA is not a patriotic song, you are destined to be cared for by the state. I believe David Lee Roth & Vince McMahon are geniuses, and that Dick Vitale and John Madden are idiots . I believe the only actor worse than Adrian Grenier is Vincent Chase. I believe Jeff Garcia is (by far) the best QB the Browns have had since Kosar. I believe Terry Pluto is stealing a paycheck. My favorite sports columnists are both named Bill, Livingston and Simmons. I hate the Eagles, but I love Don Henley. I think Belinda Carisle did her best work without the Go-Go's (and I don't mean her spread in Playboy but I'm down with that, too). I was angry when Elizabeth Shue guest-starred on Curb Your Enthusiasm as Costanza's girlfriend in a Seinfeld finale re-do, and she didn't play herself. Gave up Gatorade for Lipton Lemon Iced Tea, and Vodka for Miller Lite. Mister, we could use a man like Hebert Hoover again. I'm no homer, but #1) there's not a chance in hell the Buckeyes lose a game this season #2) I've developed a very unhealthy infatuation with the Eastern Conference's #8 seed in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, and #3) Manny Acta turns me on with his effortless transitions from english to spanish. I'm dramatic, but I don't do drama. I'm a true romantic, but I know that term has nothing to do with love. Instead, I'm devoted to the imagery and natural aesthetics of leather and the open road (but I won't ride a motorcycle). I transform daily, but I'll never conform. I used to sleep my life away and now I never sleep. I used to hide my vices, now I celebrate my sins. I spent fifteen months scared shitless of this column, now I'm afraid not to write if you read me, have some courtesy, have some sympathy, have a take-

(Mailbag is now open. Write me, readers, at I say this to you in the same voice as the old hollywood executive at the end of The Muppet Movie, who deadpanned:
"Ms. Tracey, please prepare one standard 'rich and famous' contract for the frog and his friends."

So, one year ago, I thought I'd hit the proverbial rock bottom. I stood alone in sold-out Ohio Stadium (the place where two of My Life's Top Five Moments occurred) and watched a victory over SC slip away, ever so slowly. Consider that I have been to numerous OSU football and basketball games (including the '85 Citirus Bowl), and I had never witnessed a loss. After the Trojans game-winning drive, I realized there was truly nothing I could count on except death, taxes, and an obscene amount of traffic on Lane Avenue. Less than 16 hours later, I'd witness the annual defeat that is the Browns home opener-- and a reporter from The Weather Channel drive over a Browns fan's foot...twice actually, because he rolled over it AGAIN when he put his vehicle in reverse after the initial contact. I remember feeling quite surprised, at the time, that it wasn't my foot crushed by that SUV. Apparently that weekend was only a warmup for the real devastation LeBron Raymone James had planned for us, so humbly afflicting our town with his actions in Game 5, The Decision and The Press Conference (more on that below). About nine months ago, the Sports Guy listed all three of our teams in the top ten of his Fifteen Most Tortured Teams column. An easy choice, but Bill's rock bottom moments for the Browns, Cavs and Tribe now need some updating. This town was already synonymous with persecution and depression long before we even considered how low we could sink in the first two quarters of 2010, and here's where I normally talk about unprecedented scandal and corruption in Cuyahoga County, the Plain Dealer's Sheriff McFaul witch hunt, job losses, Mayor Welo's latest gaffe, ignorant GOP carnivores, and the death of John Hughes (all right, that wasn't impactful to northeast Ohio but if felt right to end that sentence...and, like Connor Oberst once proclaimed: if it feels good, then I'll give it a try). But I do have a word count tonight, so off with the horns and on with the column--

The Vox Rock Bottom State of Affairs (or Affairs of our State):

Indians: CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee facing each other in Game One of the 2009 World Series was hard to digest, and Simmons cited it as rock bottom for Tribe fans. It stung when CC won a ring but seeing Cliff Lee win both games he started for the Phils was particularly painful, especially when you consider that Lee couldn't even make the Tribe's post-season roster two years prior. If Lee finds his 2008 Cy Young form just a few months earlier, well then surely the Red Sox couldn't overcome a Sabathia-Lee-Carmona 1-2-3 punch in the 2007 ALCS. But the economic reality of MLB is not a problem exclusive to Cleveland. Fact is, we play in a winnable division ever year and the Dolans have invested millions in scouting, development and our overall farm system (and Matt's political aspirations?!). No reason the Twins should be out-executing the Indians, year after year. That's on Shapiro and his staff, it's that simple. Through trade blunders, embarrassing free agent signings, and Wedge's inability to manage strong personalities, the once proud and trendsetting Cleveland Indians ballclub has been relegated to a side show. And when I say side show I mean exactly that, having been a spectator to the first ever PuppyPalooza at Progressive field on August 26th. I went to my fair share of Columbus Clipper games during my OSU days, and never saw something so minor league. Bring Your Dog Night is a desperate promotion from a big league front office clinging dearly to any semblance of respectability. I stayed inside the Loge to escape the puppy hysteria and concluded pro baseball at the corner of East 9th and Ontario had officially hit rock bottom; the sellout streak seemed a lifetime ago. I would classify the rise and fall of the Indians as Shakespearean, but, by most accounts, Will hated dogs.

Browns: Simmons argues the Browns' worst moment was when the team moved in '95, but that would discount all of the suffering we've endured since they've returned and somehow morphed into the worst run organization in the history of pro sports. You could reason we bottomed-out mid-season 2009 when our new GM was escorted out of the complex, our new coach was shredded by a music magazine (and compared to Augustus Gloop), and our team was an unwatchable 1-11, including a last second loss in Detroit- which seemed to feel OK because of the "entertainment value." Look, if you found anything redemptive in losing to the Lions...that, my friends, was rock bottom. Except it wasn't. Perhaps the lowest of lows occurs when you can't even honor your franchise properly. Only the Browns could eff up a "Ring of Honor." Now this may seem insignificant when compared to the holes on the team's roster and performance the last few seasons, but how hard is it to bring a few living legends together to toast past greatness for fifteen minutes? For the Browns, even that turns into a tough task, and a PR nightmare. Clearly, Jim Brown can utter some ridiculous statements, but I'm not piling on him like the rest of the local media. Reggie Rucker got your back in the PD anyway, Jim. I don't even care who was disrespected in the Brown/BigShow power struggle. What's most bothersome is the usual lack of leadership out of Berea. Randy, speak up. Saw you in your suite during Aston Villa's recent win over Everton, and I don't begrudge you an EPL team- or the satisfaction of following your Villans. And I know that shyness is a curse, believe me. But, Randy, sometimes an owner is required to be a uniting presence among divisive competing forces. And Jim Brown is still a force, regardless of his delusions. We all know the Browns, in Mike Holmgren, finally have an organizational voice that appeases the media and fans. But ownership can't always hide behind Holmgren. Let's settle the stupid shit, and then figure out how we're going to start 2-0 this season for the first time since 1989. From rock-bottom to 8-8 this year. 9-7, if you're nasty.

Cavs: Look, it was hard not to blog about Bron when it was all going down. I suppose, at some point, I reached a wretchedly numb status. Or maybe it was just pent-up anger, and the Vox won't write angry (see Gilbert's letter for reasons why; even if it excited the fan base, it was amateurish and hypocritical. Dan, if LBJ quit on the Cavs twice, why were you dying to give him a max deal, never mind the $500,000 you blew on a LeBron/Family Guy retention video!?) Truth be told, I wasn't all that mad at LeBron after Game 5. Bron had rescued victory from the jaws of defeat so many times, I bought into his elbow pain and was more exasperated that no other Cavalier came to play. So I blamed Coach Brown and cursed the Shaq trade (which I hated from Day One). I let Bron off the hook and directed my displeasure at Boston for tanking the regular season, making them a fake 4 seed. And even after LeBitch slapped us on national TV and revealed his true character, I wasn't all that upset with him. Dejected, yes, but I always maintained free agents earn the right to ball elsewhere. In our collective Clevelander eyes, LeBron lost his Chosen One moniker when he couldn't lead our city to the promised land, but that wasn't reason enough for me to truly hate. He was "a walking triple double," as Mo Williams tweeted post-Decision, and he brought me more joy watching him in a Cavs uniform than I ever could've imagined when we won the lottery seven years ago. (I went berserk that night like everyone else, but we truly had no idea about the greatness that was coming our way.)

So I was ready to say farewell with only mild disgust, still appreciative of our trip to the '07 Finals, 60-win seasons, and the playoff buzzer-beater in '06 that I witnessed on a small TV at Rainbow Hospital-- just moments after checking in for the birth of my first child. Enter The Press Conference, and it all changed. My hard feelings turned to uncontrollable hostility. My disappointment turned to vengeance. My acceptance turned into a rage inside my bones that I never knew existed. Mail in a playoff game. Bail on us six weeks later, and do it on ESPN in a sad exhibition void of class or self-awareness. Take your talents to South Beach (even in Cleveland, we can appreciate the newest euphemism for masturbation). BUT DON'T FUCKING DANCE. DO NOT FUCKING DANCE. Seeing LeBron dance was the most pathetic thing I've seen in 25 years following pro sports. The most disturbing and provoking image from the Heat's WWF Press Conference was how happy LeBron looked. That was honestly the happiest I've ever seen LeBron. I studied him for seven years, and never saw him happier. And that includes his Rookie of the Year and MVP ceremonies, his bullshit documentary, and the Cavs winning the Eastern Conference three ago. He was finally in is element on that stage, with his boys, in a new jersey surrounded by fairweather fans that will never worship him the way we did. That Press Conference will be ingrained in my mind for years to come, the unexpected symbol of my hatred for LeBron and other select members of Generation Y. To reiterate the obvious: you don't dance until you win something, dumbass. The Drive, The Shot, The Fumble, The Move, Mesa, Lofton Held at 3rd Base, Game 5, The Decision...those events slowly chipped away at my existence. But The Press Conference was MY rock bottom. So where do we go now? North, Miss Tessmacher, North.


Vox has always streamlined the personal, so we can't overlook that Mrs. Vox is now Mrs. ExVox. Since it sort of sounds cool, I suppose she'll stay on as a supporting character in my column. Not as relevant as, say, a Mr. Furley, but maybe a very restrained cross between Lilith on the later seasons of Cheers and Principal McVicker from Beavis & Butt-head. (Please, someone consult my lawyer before I write that sentence. Oh wait, I fired him and then went on to the set the new standard for self-representation in the court of family law.) Also, excuse my innocent flirtation with another notable cleveland sports blog this summer. I thank them for the opportunity and greatly admired their tenacity, but I'm home now. On the hallowed grounds of ClevelandSportsTorture, in the heart of VoxVille. I am, and therefor, I write. Finally, I can't ignore that we are toiling in a different world since I published the last Vox in the Box (#21 on May 21, 2009). With social media dominating the planet and suddenly making every blog so infinitely accessible, I'm coming to terms with the dangerous reality that my audience will be increasing from 6 readers to, like, 16. As much as I enjoyed catering to my original, faithful half-dozen, I'm going to have to branch out a bit. Not unlike Pearl Jam, who were sadly and reluctantly forced to exchange intimate club shows for sold out stadiums and front-running fans just waiting to hear Daughter. Eventually, even Eddie began holding the hand that held him down. WIth that admission, I give you the always diluted and never tarnished Random Top 10:

SamVox's Top Ten Movies of the Decade (2000-2009)

Honorable mentions include: The Patriot, Oceans 11, The Woodsman, The Wrestler, No Country for Old Men, Revolutionary Road, Unfaithful, Brokeback Mountain, Monster's Ball, The Departed, Meet the Parents, Crash, Closer, 2 for the Money and Angels in America.

1. 25th Hour
I wrote in my review of Inside Man that Spike Lee keeps kicking convention's ass, while most Americans want the same old movie cliche for their $7.50. And 25th Hour is THE joint- Spike's finest hour, based on David Benioff's underwhelming novel about a convicted drug dealer's last day of freedom before a seven year jail sentence. Spike was the first director, of course, to take on 9-11. He doesn't specifically deal with the events, but reminders of the tragedy often serve as a scene's backdrop, and permeate the mood of the film. As always in Spike's movies, the city of New York is another charcter- this time, a metaphor for Montgomery Brogan's sadness and confusion. During the closing credits, Bruce Springsteen's "The Fuse" uncompromisingly reinforces 25th's layered message of a broken humanity quick to blame, at war with it's own regrets, friendships and selfish visions, and somehow coming clean throughout the process.
Vox Definitive Moment: Montgomery Brogan's (Ed Norton) hate monologue before owing up to his own mistakes, talking to himself in front of the mirror: "Fuck the black-hatted Chassidim, strolling up and down 47th street in their dirty gabardine with their dandruff. Selling South African apartheid diamonds! Fuck the Wall Street brokers. Self-styled masters of the universe. Michael Douglas, Gordon Gekko wannabe mother fuckers, figuring out new ways to rob hard working people blind. Send those Enron assholes to jail for FUCKING LIFE! You think Bush and Cheney didn't know about that shit? Give me a fucking break! Tyco! Worldcom! Fuck the Puerto Ricans. Twenty to a car, swelling up the welfare rolls, worst fuckin' parade in the city. And don't even get me started on the Dom-in-i-cans, 'cause they make the Puerto Ricans look good. Fuck the Bensonhurst Italians with their pomaded hair, their nylon warm-up suits, their St. Anthony medallions, swinging their Jason Giambi Louisville Slugger baseball bats, trying to audition for "The Sopranos." Fuck the Upper East Side wives with their Hermès scarves and their fifty-dollar Balducci artichokes. Overfed faces getting pulled and lifted and stretched, all taut and shiny. You're not fooling anybody, sweetheart! Fuck the uptown brothers. They never pass the ball, they don't want to play defense, they take five steps on every lay-up to the hoop."

2. Vanilla Sky
Caught Cameron Crowe's adaptation of Abre Los Ojos with Mrs. ExVox, and it kept me in a nervous trance from the second I sat down. Critics junked it as a jumbled vanity flick and most movie-goers totally dismissed it, but, boy, I'm a sucker for a morality play on a playboy's mortality (don't steal that line Peter Travers, it's mine). Years later, it would remind me of Girl6. Girl6 is neither Mrs. ExVox, a Spike Lee Joint, or the blonde bartender at Parnells (the only other person I know that owns the film). Girl 6 won't be revealed so cheaply, and neither will Cameron's masterpiece.
Vox Definitive Moment: The supremely suitable soundtrack, complied by Crowe's wife, Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson

3. Match Point
Leave it to Woody Allen to craft a murderous thriller about old fashioned greed and lust, and then tautly present the film's theme as luck, pure luck. Allen spares us a moral commentary, deflects his protagonist's sins, and show's us the difference between success and failure really is a few random inches, here and there.
Vox Definitive Moment: Umm, Scarlett Johansson in the rain?

4. Little Children
The brilliant title works on so many levels. Most obvious, the grown-ups in the film acting as little children. Or maybe the adults in the film use their children as a guise for their own poor choices and motives? Moreover, the serious issues are just a vehicle for a sly satire of suburbia- the over-the-top protective parent, the stay-at-home mom's club obsessed with judgement and gossip, and an entire neighborhood existing under the self-righteous facade that society has created for couples with children. And in the end, the audience is surely more sympathetic to the plight of the mentally ill man who had exposed himself at the public pool.
Vox Definitive Moment: Do I even have to write it? Kelly Leak in the passenger's seat...

5. Sideways
I don't laugh much at the movies. Too busy people-watching, analyzing and stuffing my fucking face with popcorn. But Thomas Haden Church was beyond hilarious, and I laughed my ass off WIngs-style.
Vox Definitive Moment: Miles: Un-fucking-believable. Can't we just... go back to the motel... and hang out... and get up early, play 9 holes of golf... before we head home?
Jack: Listen, man. You're my friend, and I know you care about me. And I know you disapprove, and I respect that. But there are some things that I have to do (get laid) that you don't understand. You understand literature, movies, wine... but you don't understand my plight.

6. Training Day
A countdown without Ethan Hawke? Not on Vox's watch. (Please, I was tempted to sneak Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and Brooklyn's Finest on this list.) But the real triumph here isn't Hawke's underrated and introspective performance, but rather young director Antoine Fuqua putting a unique charge in the normally stale cop-drama genre. Denzel Washington was born to play Detective Alonzo Harris, and supporting cast Eva Mendes, Macy Gray. Snoop Dogg, Raymond Berry, Dr. Dre and Tom Berenger are all given the latitude to excel.
Vox Definitive Moment: Perhaps the greatest scene in film history: Reluctant rookie detective Jake Hoyt playing cards with his ruthless gang captors, fearing his death may be minutes away but not ready to play his hand. What happens next is now just movie lore- a desperate fight, the well-acted bathtub scene, the irony of karma...and the viewer experiences every turn almost as piercingly as Jake does.

7. Hustle & Flow
There's something disarming about a badass Memphis pimp, cutting a track in his living room on a makeshift PA with his whiter than white producer-- DJ Qualls from Road Trip. I could write some bullshit about how this film transcends race, but I'll just say I was the only white person in the theatre at Severance. While waiting in the ticket line, a sister behind me tapped me on the shoulder and assured me I'd love the film.
Vox Definitive Moment: Whoop dat trick (Get'em!), Whoop dat trick (Get'em!)

8. We Don't Live Here Anymore
Now I know y'all are lamenting the fact that Eyes Wide Shut and The Croupier were released in 1999, but you can still hate on me for this one. If you saw it, and I don't think you did, here's what you would have learned: Mark Ruffalo is pretty hot. Laura Dern used to be hot, but she's not anymore. Naomi Watts is seductively cute, but her nude scene was a letdown. And Nate from Six Feet Under always seems to play Nate from Six Feet Under.
Vox Definitive Moment: Nate from Six Feet Under burns the only working copy of his novel, writes a "shitty poem," and it gets published by The New Yorker. This inspired a number of poetry submissions by yours truly to The New Yorker...after all, this film is proof they publish shit by average writers!? Well, they don't. And fuck The New Yorker. Did you guys even read The New Orleans Diaries? I sent it four times.

9. Cast Away
I'm not a huge Tom Hanks fan, but you can't deny his skills here. An actor in full command of all of his tools. And, in the end, it was all just a love story.
Vox Definitive Moment:

10. Almost Famous
I walked out of Crowe's love letter to rock-n-roll a bit disappointed, but God bless repeated viewings on HBO. It gets better and better every time I watch it. You may want to try that approach with this column.
Vox Definitive Moment: "Russell. Jeff. Ed. Larry. I really love your band. I think the song "Fever Dog" is a big step forward for you guys. I think you guys producing it yourselves, instead of Glyn Johns, was the right thing to do. And the guitar sound... is incindiary. Incendiary."

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners, saints
As heads is tails, just call me Lucifer
'Coz I'm in need of some restraint

I am Mick Jagger in the box.
Parting is...inevitable.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lebron and Dwade...Married?

I saw this posted on this morning and thought it was pretty funny and creative.

Check it out

I really like the Chris Bosh Baby announcement.
Sent from my BlackBerry®